Tony Pulis’ shock exit leaves Crystal Palace in limbo

Time will tell if Crystal Palace were right to gamble their top flight future without Tony Pulis, writes Richard Buxton

Richard Buxton
By Richard Buxton at Beckenham

When Crystal Palace fans took to the streets of London’s financial district, in 2010, with their club on the brink of liquidation, they can only have hoped that it would be the end of their turmoil. Four years on and before a ball has even been kicked, they are again in a state of fresh disarray.

Tony Pulis is not the first manager to walk away from a club citing creative differences but the confirmation of his mutual termination, on the eve of the new Premier League season, has left Selhurst Park shell-shocked.

A fractured relationship with co-chairman Steve Parish over transfer targets this summer is said to have been the decisive factor. Eagles players and fans alike will be wondering how it came to this.

Three months ago, the Holmestead was rocking in ecstasy after Pulis masterminded a remarkable comeback that put the final nail in the coffin for Liverpool’s title challenge. The ‘miracle of Crystanbul’, as it was dubbed, was the culmination of six months of remarkable transformation.

Pulis’ uncompromising approach has never endeared him to the masses as it did his predecessor Ian Holloway, a veritable media darling, but popularity is an unreliable benchmark of a manager.

The statistics vindicate the former Stoke boss’ approach that transformed Palace from certain relegation to a credible 11th-place finish – their highest since 1992 – in just six short months, garnering points from some of their esteemed Premier League peers, including Chelsea and Liverpool, along the way.

His coronation as the division’s manager of the year was richly deserved. Yet somehow, Pulis’ future at SE25 was still clouded in uncertainty. An apparent personality clash with Parish over transfer targets proved to be the final straw for the 56-year-old’s time in south east London.

He had identified Swansea striker Michu, Cardiff’s Steven Caulker and Tottenham midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson as ideal components for new-look Palace. The only arrivals of note were Fraizer Campbell and Martin Kelly while Pulis could only watch Sigurdsson return to Swansea City, Caulker move to QPR and Michu join Napoli on a season-long loan.

Parish has been depicted as the pantomime villain of this saga but, as one of four shareholders in his beloved club, he has had to detach business from sentimentality. He saw what trying to splash the cash under two previous regimes did. His apprehension to send the club to the brink of administration for a third time is understandable.

But Palace could have afforded to relinquish a reasonable amount of funds to Pulis on account of the new-found riches of the Premier League’s television rights deal. His track record of top flight survival, both at Selhurst and with the Britannia Stadium, warranted that at the very least.

Malky Mackay may be the bookies’ favourite to take the reins but it is a move that offers no guarantees of survival or even the progress that they enjoyed in six months under Pulis, who will not be short of offers from Premier League clubs when he returns from holidaying in America.

Even if, as with Stoke, Pulis did not prove to be their man for the longer term, he would have at least provided them with a stable foundation on which to build. Time will tell if Palace were right to gamble their top flight future without him.

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